The Queen of Baking, the Empress of Eating… call her what you will, even at the age of 82 TV star Mary Berry continues to define a generation’s kitchen ambitions.
Mary, you’ve never entertained the notion of retirement – what drives you and keeps you motivated?
I really don’t think one should put limits on what’s possible. I would never have imagined that an opportunity such as The Great British Bake Off would come along at any point, let alone when it did, and I certainly wasn’t going to turn it down. It really has been a wonderful experience, but that, and publishing my autobiography would have been great achievements at any age.
Having said that, I recognise that I’m fortunate to be in good health, so for as long as I can keep doing the things I love, I will.
Your mother lived to 105; what do you think is the secret to ageing well and living a long and productive life?
Well you must keep active! Even in retirement there’s no need to just sit back and do nothing, I think that would make you quite unhappy after a while. Even if it’s just getting out there and being a part of your local community. I like to walk a lot, and I also play tennis.
Obviously, a big part of it is having good genes, but I also think just being engaged in your life is so important. I know for my part, if I weren’t busy I’d probably nod off.
What do you say to women who worry about ageing – some have meltdowns about turning 40 and act as if it’s all downhill from there?
I’ve never worried about my age. I do understand to a degree, but your looks ought not be a marker of what you’re capable of. Having found my greatest success much later in life, I can attest that one thing you should never do is give up on your dreams. Besides, 40 is no age at all!
You have had some very dark times in your life, how did you survive those and what’s your advice to others currently struggling?
It’s very tough, but I would say that dealing with the terrible loss of my son has given me strength in other ways, and it takes an awful lot to upset me these days. I’ve also become extremely grateful for the small joys life gives us, and when Thomas and Sarah’s IVF twins were born safe and sound, I cried tears of happiness.
What’s your favourite way to relax and unwind?
Probably just being sociable – it’s just a joy to be around the ones you love.
For mine and Paul’s 50th wedding anniversary we threw an enormous party and had all our dearest friends and family around us. It was just marvellous.
What’s your advice for staying healthy and balanced when life gets stressful?
I believe in finding a balance. I’m certainly not fond of this clean food thing that’s become popular lately. What’s wrong a little sugar every now and then? Everything in moderation. Don’t gorge yourself on any one thing and you’ll be fine.
What is your best piece of wisdom?
Life is short, so don’t let your pride get in the way of cutting the odd corner; there is nothing wrong with buying a packet of pre-made puff pastry!
Is there a beauty product, routine you follow or a tip that’s been a lifesaver for you?
My routine is very simple. I use one foundation, one lipstick and one face powder and I use E45 daily. I certainly wouldn’t have Botox, or a facelift, or anything drastic like that. I have plenty of wrinkles and they make me who I am.
Did you enjoy this? Perhaps you’d like to read more about Julia Roberts who has joined the 50 club, new mum Cheryl reveals her beauty routine, Emma Forbes tells us why she feels better at 52 than she did at 32 and Gemma Sheppard explains why her favourite age is now.